Inner War….and Peace…

Time. There’s never enough of it. But, for too long now, I’ve very much needed it to slow down – so, once the end-of-term mayhem had drawn to a close, I made myself draw up my paddle, stopped travelling in ever maddening circles, and during the summer holidays, allowed myself to go with the slower flow that ebbs, often unseen, around the worries and stresses. There, in that place, is to be found the small, the essential, the detailed; all those mind-space openers that let in the larger picture and allow you to actually get somewhere.

Somehow, that more relaxed frame of mind opens up more time; unfolds it from previously hidden corners, and makes room for the savouring of small, important moments with the people we love. It pushes out and ignores those warring inner demands that so often distract and break in and shrink time to an awful paralysis. We can’t do everything – so we might as well just clear a space and let ourselves breathe.

Now, of course, with the arrival of autumn, with all its get-back-to-normal routines, the paddle is once more twitching with the turbulent pull of conflicting currents. But alongside that, back in the slow flow, I’m making a further investment in Time by embarking on a literary journey. It’s a momentous one, and a voyage that I can already feel tugging my mental sails out to a wide and satisfying ocean…

On the day the children went back to school, I lingered by my bookshelves, devoting some quiet moments to that delicious task of choosing my next read. When my mind is distracted, my thoughts scattered, the choice on my shelves can be perplexing; there are so many unread volumes and re-reads demanding attention. But, that day, the pull towards War and Peace was so strong, so insistent I knew that, for me, this was “Its Time.”

I took down that hefty tome; a treasure saved up for that “Perfect Moment” when life would not be too busy, my mind and attention not too fractured by inner tugs of war. But War and Peace is not a novel for that “Perfect Moment” (which, in truth, I know will never come). It’s a novel for Life; in all its variety and strife and happening and complexity. That insistent pull towards (at last!) beginning the novel was a liberating invitation to follow – come what may. So, ignoring the twitching paddle, I stepped into the flow, and started to read…

Picture of Penguin Classics edition of War and Peace

I’m now three hundred or so pages into Anthony Briggs’s (Penguin Classics) translation of Tolstoy’s masterpiece; deep in its heart beats, detail, scope and moment – and in the wide breathing space for the essential that this novel – and all great literature – gives us. A real getting somewhere.

Hopefully though, during that voyage, I’ll be able to pull a few rafts alongside the main ship and fill them up with blog posts about my slow-flow summer – a summer of shooting stars, curious seals, leaping dolphins, bookshops and Shakespeare…

It’s going to be a bit of a dodge around the months and across Britain – from June to the present, from Northumberland to Wales, from red squirrels to red kites…and, in truth, I’m beginning to panic at the thought of all that catching up…

But…no, I won’t succumb…out damn’d paddle! Let’s go with the flow!

Advertisements